For the first time in more than six months, Tucson’s largest school district officially has a permanent leader — and he’s earning significantly less than the last superintendent.
The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board officially approved Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo’s contract Tuesday, after having voted to promote him from interim superintendent last month.
Trujillo will earn $200,000 annually, a sharp decline from the last superintendent, H.T. Sanchez, who was earning an annual salary of $270,000 — not including performance bonuses, expenses or vacation payouts — nor the $200,000 the board paid Sanchez to end his contract prematurely.
One member of the board, Mark Stegeman, voted against the contract, despite having previously said he expected to support it. Stegeman had also opposed Trujillo’s nomination to the job at the board’s last meeting on Aug. 22, saying he did so on procedural grounds.
Stegeman said he didn’t have a problem with the pay or the terms of the contract, but that he voted against Trujillo because he had “new information.” He wouldn’t elaborate on that information.
Trujillo chalked the vote up to Stegeman’s clear preference for another finalist in the superintendent search, Stephen Trejo, a former principal at TUSD’s C.E. Rose K-8 school.
“Dr. Stegeman has been very consistent about the candidate he preferred to see,” Trujillo said, adding he welcomes the opportunity to work on his relationship with Stegeman.
On top of the $200,000 base salary, Trujillo’s contract states that he will receive $20,000 to cover travel and other business expenses, and will be eligible to receive $5,000 in performance pay if he achieves metrics set by the board.
Sanchez, by comparison, received $25,000 for travel and business expenses, and was eligible for performance bonus of 6 percent of his base salary, or more than $15,000. And while Sanchez’s contract stated his salary would automatically increase by $10,000 during his first three years, Trujillo’s salary will be increased the same amount as any general salary bump that is provided to other district administrators.
TUSD conducted a nationwide search for the new superintendent, but after holding interviews with four finalists, board members ultimately decided to go with Trujillo, who had taken over the superintendent’s post on a temporary basis in March after the board forced Sanchez out.
In fact, Trujillo has made a career out of taking a temporary position and making himself indispensable. In one of his first jobs as a teacher, for example, he started with a 10-day contract and ended up holding the position for seven years.
Lillian Fox, a former TUSD teacher and longtime education activist, congratulated the board on having the “good sense” to hire Trujillo.
“I’m not going to congratulate Dr. Trujillo, because it’s an awful job,” she added.